Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve moved my office onto a new improved casework system. This allows me to record correspondence from constituents and identify major issues affecting the residents of Washington and Sunderland West.
Some people may think it would be Brexit or some other big national issue. However, surprisingly one of the top issues is animal welfare.
Since 2007, I have received 1,147 letters, emails or postcards about the vast array of issues on animal welfare.
This includes dog fighting, the use of CCTV in slaughterhouses, wild animals in circuses, concerns over trophy hunting, the controversial badger culls, puppy farming, fox hunting... the list goes on and on.
This isn’t surprising. Every week I write letters to constituents about a whole host of issues, but it is clear that the people of Washington and Sunderland West are passionate animal lovers.
As a pet owner myself, I completely understand this. Animals are defenceless creatures and it is up to us to uphold our moral duty to do the right thing by them.
Recently, on one of Parliament’s sitting Fridays – where Private Members Bills are brought before Parliament by Backbench MPs to be debated – we saw three Bills on animal welfare – one on wild animals in circuses, and two on sentencing around animal cruelty.
Yet, all three were opposed by the Government despite huge public support for them.
I should know, I have had many constituents write to me about these specific Bills.
Labour has a proud track record on animal welfare issues.
We will continue to champion this record and build upon it, which I will do with renewed vigour, knowing that this is an issue which my constituents care so deeply about.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve moved my office onto a new... Read more
In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education, Sharon will be joining an esteemed judging panel to judge a competition to redesign the British passport post-Brexit.
The unofficial competition is a way for professional designers, non-designers and students from across the UK to join a conversation on the future of Britain, post-Brexit, through the medium of art by using the British passport as the canvas.
The top prize for the winning design will be £1000, with second place winning £500 and third place winning £250.
Following the competition, the winning designs will be published in Dezeen magazine and exhibited at the Design Museum in London, with a wider selection of entries exhibited at Clerkenwell Design Week in London in May 2017.
Along with Sharon, the other judges include: Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum; Rohan Silva, founder of Second Home and former government policy advisor; Margaret Calvert, graphic designer; Oliver Wainwright, architecture and design critic for the Guardian, and; Marcus Fairs, founder and editor-in-chief of Dezeen.
The judges will be looking for a combination of a strong overall idea, good execution, practicality and a convincing justification for their design.
“Creativity and artistic expression are uniting forces, and at a time when the country seems more divided than it as ever been, it is important that we all come together and look to a positive future for Britain.
“That is why I am delighted to be involved in Dezeen’s Brexit Passport competition, which aims to bring people together through the medium of art and using the canvas of what the British passport will look like once we leave the EU.
“I hope as many people as possible, including my own constituents, will get involved in this competition, from top designers to the next budding designer looking for their artistic break, and showcase to the world a positive outlook on the future of Britain, post-Brexit.”
You can read more about the competition, including rules and the entry form, by following this link: http://www.dezeen.com/passport
In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education, Sharon will be joining an esteemed judging panel to judge a competition to...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
Parliament is currently dominated by Brexit as we continue the process of passing the Article 50 Bill which will see Parliament allow the Government to trigger Article 50 in March; however, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other issues going on which are just as important.
Last week, I attended a debate on Maintained Nursery Schools and the worry is that this jewel in the crown of our education system is under threat from this Government’s changes to the Early Years Funding Formula.
Here in Sunderland, we are lucky to have nine good nursery schools providing for the local communities, with four in my own patch in Washington and Sunderland West. H
owever, there are concerns that the changes in the funding for Nursery Schools here in Sunderland could drop from £5.38 an hour to £5.11. It may seem like a small change, but it is the difference between survival and closure for many nursery schools.
I have always been a champion of improving our early year’s education in this country. Giving children the best start in life is paramount to improving social mobility and giving all children the opportunity in life to achieve great things.
There has also been a lot going on regarding cancer in Parliament, and in my capacity as Shadow Minister for Public Health, I have been working hard on this issue especially in the lead up to World Cancer Day (which took place last weekend).
Firstly, we had a debate on Kadcyla – a breast cancer drug which can extend terminally-ill women’s life for many months, sometimes years – which is being removed by NICE and then research by Cancer Research UK released last week showed the impact that inaction on prevention measures – such as smoking and obesity – could mean more women developing cancer faster than men in the next 20 years.
Brexit may be taking all the headlines, but this Government is implementing policy decisions that if not addressed in a sensible way, will have ramifications on the long-term health of our country.
In my last few columns, I have mentioned that I am holding public meetings in my constituency to talk about Brexit. I recently launched my Brexit Listening Exercise, along with a questionnaire, and held the first of two public meetings last month and the next will be on February 25 in South Hylton. If you’re a constituent, please contact my office at email@example.com or on 0191 417 2000 to register.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. Parliament is currently dominated by Brexit as we continue the process of...
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website.
Over the Christmas period, many of us would have spent much of our time with loved ones celebrating everything the holidays have to offer. Yet, this wouldn’t have been the case for many people who suffer from loneliness.
Over 9 million of us say we are or are often lonely, but almost two thirds feel uncomfortable admitting it. We shouldn’t; loneliness affects us all at some point in our lives. From moving out of home and to a new area, to becoming a new mum and struggling with the change in life or getting older and losing contact with friends and family.
There are small and simple ways we can reach out to others. Instead of walking by, we can smile and say hello to a neighbour or decide to ring an elderly loved one who you may not have spoken to in a while.
Even the #joinin hashtag on Twitter over Christmas, promoted by local comedian, Sarah Millican, showed how taking an interest in another person’s life can be transformative, help fight loneliness and shows how isolation affects many different people.
Two Christmas ago, I backed Age UK’s loneliness campaign in this column and just over a year later, it is important we all recommit our efforts to ending isolation and loneliness in our communities.
That is why I am supporting the Jo Cox Commission into Loneliness, which will be spearheaded by Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP. This commission was the brainchild of our late colleague, Jo Cox, and will be in memory of Jo and her desire to tackle isolation and loneliness in our society.
The Commission will be all about action, rather than being a talking shop. This work is something we can all get behind and come up with ways to address loneliness.
I commend both Rachel and Seema for taking up the mantle from our late friend, Jo, and continuing her work.
In my column at the end of last year, I mentioned that I would be holding public meetings in my constituency to talk about Brexit. I recently launched my Brexit Listening Exercise, with the first of two public meetings this weekend, and the second in February.
For those who cannot make it to the meetings, I have also launched a questionnaire for people to feed in their views to me. The response has been phenomenal, and I am so pleased to see so many constituents engaging with this listening exercise. If you’re a constituent, please contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0191 417 2000 to get involved.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. Over the Christmas period, many of us would have spent much of...
Sharon has backed Maternity Action’s campaign to end pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
As part of the campaign, Maternity Action released three videos to empower pregnant women to address pregnancy discrimination in the work place. You can view the three videos here.
Pregnancy discrimination has risen dramatically in the past decade and now affects three quarters of pregnant women and new mothers at work.
Government figures have shown that 20,000 women leave their jobs because of health and safety concerns each year, and 53,000 were discouraged from attending antenatal appointments.
It is also estimated that 54,000 pregnant women a year are forced out of work because of unfair and unlawful treatment because of their pregnancy.
In support of the campaign, Sharon said:
“It is important that pregnant women and new mothers are safe at work and do not feel discriminated against or face problems in the workplace due to their pregnancy. That is why I am backing Maternity Action’s campaign and the launch of their three new videos to help support women if they need to raise concerns with their employer or resolve issues as early as possible.”
Sharon has backed Maternity Action’s campaign to end pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. As part of the campaign, Maternity Action released three videos to empower pregnant women to address pregnancy...
This is my final Echo column of 2016, and what a year it has been. It’s safe to say 2016 has been a year of upheaval. However, one thing remains constant, I will continue to represent the people of my constituency here in Sunderland to the full; making sure that their voices are heard in Parliament.
2017 is expected to be as busy a year as any, with the negotiations for exiting the EU expected to officially begin by March 2017 when Article 50 is invoked – which will begin the official negotiations of our exit.
We are still none the wiser as to what a post-Brexit Britain will look like or what our relationship with the EU will be, but it is welcome that the Government have finally conceded to Labour’s calls and will now set out their Brexit plans before Parliament.
It is only right that Parliament has a role to play in the negotiations. This is a momentous constitutional, economic and diplomatic task that we must get right, or face serious consequences and ramifications.
Parliament must be able to fully scrutinise the Government’s plans. MPs are elected by local people to be their voice in Parliament and hold the Government to account; Brexit does not change that.
The result of the referendum was clear, we will be leaving the EU, and if and when the times comes for Parliament to vote on invoking Article 50, I will be voting for it.
Yet, this does not mean that Theresa May and her Brexiteer Secretaries of State have free rein to do as they wish.
The people of our City did not vote to become poorer as a consequence of leaving the EU, and it is up to me, my other Sunderland colleagues and all MPs to hold the Government to account so we get the best deal possible that protects the jobs and livelihoods of people across the country.
To do that, I need to hear what the people of our area want us to do as their politicians, and I welcome any comments from my constituents about what Brexit should look like to them, and as part of this, I will be holding public meetings in the New Year to hear more about the views of the residents of Washington and Sunderland West.
Brexit will happen, but it is still unclear what it will look like.
I will make sure to continue to hold the Government to account, and continue to be the voice for Washington and Sunderland West in Westminster.
For me, we need a good deal that respects the outcome of June’s referendum but does not make us poorer because of it. This will be my driving force in the coming year.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. This is my final Echo column of 2016, and what a year it...
The age-old proverb: “out of sight, out of mind” always springs to mind when we have some old electricals tucked away at the back of the cupboard or stowed up in the loft.
They sit there for years on end gathering dust and filling up useful storage space, and we always think, “I will get that fixed soon” or “I’ll get round to throwing that away eventually”.
According to United Nations experts, the electronic waste (e-waste) which is discarded by consumers globally totals over 42 million tons a year with less than 16% of that astronomical figure being diverted to recycling or reuse.
This is all alarming news when it is reported that the electrical items we throw away each year contributes up to 4,400 tons of ozone depleting chemicals being let off into our environment.
We all talk about “going green” or “doing more for the environment”, but sometimes we easily forget the effect of throwing away an old camera or mobile phone can have on our environment.
However, a new initiative aims to change all of that. It’s called Restart, and it aims to help empower consumers to address the growing issue of waste and learn life skills to recycle, repair and reuse old electricals which may still have some life left in them – if only they were given some TLC.
The project is currently only based in London, but hopes to expand out across the country.
To do that they held a Restart party in Parliament, where MPs were able to take their old electronics and repair them themselves.
I, for one, was delighted to personally repair an old clock of mine that I had been tempted to throw away but now can put up again in the house with no need to buy a new one or add to the yearly levels of e-waste we are producing.
Restart hopes to set up local Restart parties across the country where local people can come together and learn more about how they can recycle and repair their old electrical items so we can all take positive steps towards reducing harmful e-waste in the UK whilst also learning valuable life skills we can use in the future. You can find out more about Restart by visiting their website: https://therestartproject.org/
The initiative is only in its infancy, but it is set to grow in popularity where more and more people will learn about repairing or recycling their old electrical items, and can finally empty out that cupboard full of old electrical items and give them a restart to a new life.
You can see some photos of Sharon below at the RESTART reception in Parliament:
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. The age-old proverb: “out of sight, out of mind” always springs to mind...
In her capacity as Co-Chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse, Sharon organised a cross-party group of MPs and Peers led by along with Nigel Adams MP, Chair of the Music APPG, and were joined with famous faces, such as Imogen Heap, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child producer Sonia Friedman, and Josh Franceschi of You Me At Six!. The photo call called on the Government to accept the “Ban the Bots” amendment during Report Stage of the Digital Economy Bill on the 28.11.16.
The photo call took place outside of Parliament, where MPs and Peers backed an amendment drafted by Nigel Adams MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music, and tabled on a cross-party basis by the entire Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, and supported by Sharon Hodgson MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, and Tom Watson, Labour’s Culture Secretary and Labour’s Shadow Culture, Media and Sport team, which would ban the use of bots to buy tickets. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s move follows years of campaigning by Sharon and the APPG for Ticket Abuse to consider how to tackle different aspects of a multi-faceted issue.
The photo call also linked in with the #ToutsOut campaign by Fan Fair Alliance, who have been galvanising the industry to tackle ticket touting and ensure fans are put first in the market.
This came off the back of a Parliamentary Petition which saw more than 83,000 people call for further transparency measures in the market to help empower fans and protect them from the unscrupulous actions of touts.
Following the photo call, Sharon, said:
“It was excellent to see our cross-party campaign to take another step forward after many years of campaigning on the many issues in the ticketing industry which are locking fans out of seeing their favourite artist, sports team or theatre show. The chorus of concerns from industry, fans and Parliamentarians a like is becoming hard for the Government to ignore. It’s time the Government acted.”
Sharon organises Ban the Bots & Touts Out cross-party photocall ahead of Report Stage of the Digital Economy Bill
In her capacity as Co-Chair of the APPG on Ticket Abuse, Sharon organised a cross-party group of MPs and Peers led by along with Nigel Adams MP, Chair of the...
Last week saw Nissan solidify its relationship with Sunderland and the North East further when the company announced that their two new car models, the new Qashqai and the X-Trail SUV, would be built here in Sunderland.
The news which was expected later this month, was brought forward and definitely lifted a weight off the shoulders of those who work at the Sunderland plant and within the supply chain, here in the North East and across the country.
It is not surprising that many people were apprehensive about the impending decision, especially after comments by Chief Executive, Carlos Ghosn, on future investment here in Sunderland due to Brexit. But what this news has done is allowed families who depend on Nissan for their jobs and livelihoods to plan for the future, now that they are secure.
It is only right that we celebrate the good fortune our City and the wider North East region received last week, and recognise the sigh of relief for the many tens of thousands of families, rather than dampen the jubilant mood felt across the region with scepticism. There will be time to discuss what deal was struck and the content of the letter, but for now, this is good news and that should not be forgotten.
+ This week saw LACA’s National School Meals Week return.
National School Meals Week is a year-round initiative which promotes pupils taking up school meals and showcases the improvement seen over the years. Our school catering workforce is larger than the British Navy but can often be overlooked when it comes to celebrating the improvements we have seen in school food over the last decade.
That is why it is important that we recognise all of their contributions to the health, education and well-being of our children.
It was for this reason that I was delighted to invite Audrey Chappell of Albany Primary School to come down to London and cook in Parliament’s kitchens, and for me to go along and see her in action and hear about her day’s experiences. It was lovely to hear about everything Audrey got up to on her visit and how it would not be an experience she will forget.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or find the published column on the Sunderland Echo website. Last week saw Nissan solidify its relationship with Sunderland and the North East...
Read below Sharon's reaction to the announcement on 27.10.16 that Nissan will be building their new Qashqai and X-Trail SUV at the Nissan Sunderland factory in her constituency:
“The announcement today that Nissan has decided to base the production of their new Qashqai and X-Trail SUV here in Sunderland is fantastic news and shows that not only have Nissan got confidence to continue investing in our region but most importantly, reinforces Nissan’s continued faith in the skilled and highly capable workforce based at the plant.
“Credit must go to the workforce at the Nissan factory for their continued hard work in producing such high-quality cars, where nearly 80% of the cars rolling off the production line in Sunderland are exported across the globe. The talent and skill of Sunderland’s workforce is showcased across the world and puts Sunderland very squarely on the map as somewhere for businesses to come and invest.
“It is welcome that this announcement will secure 7,000 jobs at the plant and it is up to the Government to ensure that this news is not squandered by jeopardising it with an unclear Brexit strategy. Clarity is still very much needed on what will happen to our automotive industry as we continue down the path of exiting the European Union.
“Nissan is such a vital contributor to our regional economy but also our national economy, along with supporting such a large workforce totalling over 48,000 employees by Nissan directly and in the supply chain. This news should be welcomed by all and is a moment for the North East to celebrate some good news for our region’s much-needed economic growth and job creation.”
You can also watch a clip of Sharon talking on the BBC News Channel on 27.10.16 about the Nissan announcement below.
Sharon reacts to announcement on new Qashqai & X-Trail SUV being built at Nissan's Sunderland factory
Read below Sharon's reaction to the announcement on 27.10.16 that Nissan will be building their new Qashqai and X-Trail SUV at the Nissan Sunderland factory in her constituency: “The announcement...